Photo caption: The Johnsons have a date box filled with a year of pre-planned dates.
By Valerie Riley
As we embark on February, the month of love, I set out to find some local working parents who manage to keep the spark alive while juggling kids, home and career. This can be challenging for couples. According to a recent relationship survey in Redbook magazine, 45 percent of couples say date night happens rarely, with only 18 percent say once a month – that’s less than 1 in 5!
One local couple has a good plan for encouraging regular dates and it started off as a Christmas gift. Jennifer Johnson works for Stepping Stones Preschool at Trinity United Methodist Church, while her husband Darren is an insurance agent with Scarborough Insurance. Together they are parents to Ben, age 10 and Campbell, age 7. They have been married for 12 years, and with two careers plus the kids’ activities, it can be hard to find one-on-one time.
To solve the problem, Jennifer set out with a plan.
“I gave Darren a box filled with 12 envelopes of pre-planned dates this Christmas,” Jennifer said. “There are two dates per month, one that we do at home and one we do away from home.”
While some of Jennifer’s dates can include kids, they make a choice whether or not to go it alone.
“Each month there is a theme,” she adds. “They are not just dinner and a movie, either. I tried to think outside the box. Some are even free.”
“If something is needed for the date I have supplied it. For example, one month is about art so I put some small canvas and paints so we can take a night or afternoon and paint something together.”
Some ideas are a little more traditional. “I have also put a gift card to the movies in one and a gift card to Dragonfly Sushi for a dinner date in another.”
While this might seem pretty romantic, Jennifer is quick to add that there is a practical side. She mentioned that at the end of their date nights, they occasionally end up at Target picking up a few necessities.
The overall idea of the date box is new, but the idea of keeping regular dates is something that Jennifer has been keyed in on for years.
“I am hoping having something planned will help us actually do the date instead of letting ‘life’ get in the way”
The experts agree that dates are important in all stages of marriage.
“[It’s] not just for couples with young kids who need a night away from the hubbub, or newlywed couples, or those who are struggling,” says Winifred M. Reilly , Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and author of the relationship advice blog Speaking of Marriage. “Date night is an essential because couples in all states and stages need quality one-on-one time.”
So, working parents in Gainesville…when was your last date night? Here are some web resources to inspire you:
Foryourmarriage.com – Weekly Dating Ideas
Huffington Post – Date Night Ideas for Married Couples
FamilyShare.com – 51 cheap dates for married couples